Why Homecare is the Answer to 2020’s Big Health Care Questions

By Tom Threlkeld. Wednesday, January 8th, 2020. Source: HomeCare Mag

The homecare and home health industry is in an exciting moment, with the possibility of remarkable growth and new technology confronting the reality of increasing regulatory attention.  “Homecare continues to march forward with strong policy-based and political support as the preferred focus for health care innovations,” said William A. Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). “Other health care sectors have joined the overall transformation in prioritizing community-based care for acute, post-acute and end-of-life services. As a result, new models of homecare continue to emerge along with new types of care providers. Technology advances have accompanied the care policy and delivery reforms, creating expanded tools to extend the opportunities to receive all levels of care at home. The greatest challenge for homecare today continues to be workforce availability, reflecting a combination of factors that include increasing demands for care that follows the aging of America, along with general competition for an adequate workforce among employers at large. All told, the
state of homecare is very positive, but not without challenges.”

Spending

Home health spending in the United States exceeded $102 billion in 2018, a new high, according to the Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in figures published in Health Affairs.

Total U.S. health care spending was approximately $3.65 trillion in 2018. That means home health care spending accounted for less than 3% of total health care spending in the United States.

While combined health care spending increased 4.6% in 2018, a slight increase over the growth rate of 2017, home health care spending grew at a healthy 5.2% clip, up noticeably from 4.6% in 2017 and 4.2% in 2016. Home health spending has increased by 30% in just the last five years, and current projections estimate almost $187 billion will be spent on home health care in 2027.

And yet, home health spending is still dwarfed by hospital spending, which reached $1.2 trillion in 2018—about a third of all U.S. health care spending.

In a time of tight budgets, this massive growth in hospital spending is not affordable, making homecare an increasingly attractive alternative. The elderly population of the U.S. continues to grow rapidly, with some of the fastest growth among the 85+ crowd that is most likely to consume more health care. Lowering rehospitalization rates should help provide robust growth for home health for years to come.

Jobs

Job growth in the health care sector has grown a full percentage point faster than employment in the rest of the economy as a whole, and 10.8% of all jobs in the U.S. are in the health care sector—a record high.

All parts of the health care sector are seeing growth, with residential, ambulatory, nursing care and hospitals above average.

However, home health leads all other settings with 4.4% employment growth from March 2018 to March 2019, adding a total of 64,100 jobs. Outpatient care centers saw 4.3% employment growth, with other ambulatory centers growing 3.8%. Jobs in physician’s offices and hospitals grew by 2.1% over the last year, while nursing and residential care jobs grew by 1.2%.

Home health now accounts for 9% of all health care jobs, behind hospitals (31%), nursing and residential care (21%), physicians’ offices (16%), and other ambulatory care (16%). Outpatient care centers account for just 6% of health care jobs. Based on current trends, experts believe home health jobs growth will continue to match or exceed job growth in all other settings of the health care sector.

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